Noreen and Vernon Kemp
Part 4

Date of Interview: 4th Feb 2005

Place: Balmain, Sydney, Australia

Interviewer: Kevin Murray

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Feb 2005


So that’s a brief summary of how the family was going and then I and I say what are we doing all these years and Vee will tell you. He’s already told you he’s already told you some of the things we were doing but you haven’t heard them all. Have you?

Vernon: We continued going to the Maddermarket, they did ten plays a year, so we continued with our season ticket, in fact we had it for I calculated thirty three years and so we saw a vast number of plays and that was a great experience.

Noreen: One of the things I missed when I came to Sydney, we couldn’t go every month to the theatre here, it was a bit expensive.

Vernon: Judith our eldest girl got married, while we were at Unthank Road and while she was at school she acquired a French pen pal called Mick, and Mick came over to the wedding, and at the reception she gazed into the eyes of a cousin, the best man who lived in Birmingham, Peter and a year later they were married in Paris and so we went over to the wedding, and that was lovely. On the continent you have to have a civil wedding and then you can have a church wedding, a blessing afterwards. So we went to the blessing afterwards and Madame Westerman laid on a very grand wedding meal afterwards out in the country which lasted all afternoon, French style.

Kevin: Wonderful

Vernon: It was absolutely wonderful, yes and so we did a number of trips to France. I better just say a word or two about other interests that we acquired during these years. One was that we joined an organization, well we set up a branch in Norwich of an international educational charity called The English Speaking Union, they have branches here in Australia and so the Norwich branch of English Speaking Union became a big thing.

We had a huge membership and we used to do all kinds of things, have meetings and things and the patron of the ESU was the Queen and the chairman of the whole organization was The Duke of Edinburgh, so it was a pretty high powered thing and they had their headquarters, was in Mayfair in London a very swish place, do you see with a club attached where you could stay at a very modest price, I might add. We stayed there a couple of times, so ESU was a pretty high powered thing they hadn’t any money of their own, they used to get money out of companies and spend it on projects like sending undergraduates out to Australia for six weeks, three weeks work, three weeks travel and they did that in the summer vacation. That was the kind thing that ESU did. Locally one of the things I used to organize was a schools public speaking competition, this was national competition so we used to get Sixth formers, years ten to twelve here in Aus, so it was a competition for public speaking and I was heavily involved in that which was rather fun. The organization locally was pretty big so we used to have a regional weekend every now and again and organizing that was rather fun, we liked that. Some years later, I forget when it was, through ESU we had an invitation from The Queen to attend her Garden Party in the summer.

Noreen: We’ve got a photo

Vernon: And that was lovely.

So we went to London and attended the Garden Party, it happened to be a lovely summer’s afternoon and somebody had told us to make sure that when we’re there to sample The Queen’s iced coffee, because it’s rather good and so it was, it was lovely and it was a tremendous experience and we also attended a reception given by The Queen at St James’s Palace and that was a tremendous experience.

Noreen: we shook hands with Prince Phillip, he went down one line and The Queen went down the other.

Vernon: The Queen and Phillip were there, do you see, it was rather cosy and nice, a lot of very top people there, the American Ambassador, I forget her name now, she was a high powered person was there as a guest. Yes we liked that very much, in that organization we did all sorts of things, we had on one anniversary, we had an anniversary service at St Margaret’s Westminster in London, which is one of the churches in London and the preacher was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who sat sort of level with, where things happened, so we enjoyed that. We continued with Scottish Country Dancing and I was associated with a community of nuns, called the called The Community of All Hallows and they had a house in Norwich for wayward girls.

Noreen: fallen women

Vernon: people in distress, any woman who needed shelter could go there, it was a very ancient pub which had a lot of history attached to it and I was chairman of the house committee there and that took up some time and was an interest to me. I also helped to found a counseling service, not marriage guidance, but general counseling and that went rather well, we had a bit of luck because a partnership of doctors heard about this and they said “well look, we get people coming to the surgery who don’t really need medical treatment, they need counseling. If you like you can have our suite of rooms and there were seven interviewing rooms, you can have them in the evening for interviewing for your counseling”.

I checked up on the organization not long ago and the things still going, they’ve got nineteen fully trained counselors, they do four thousand five hundred interviews a year and they still use the suite of rooms belonging to that doctor, so it is a successful thing, that started. Do you want to talk about…

Noreen: that while you were doing these high powered things, I was doing things like catering for the schools thing when we had parent teacher things and I did the catering side of the English Speaking Union, in fact I once catered for one hundred people at the Norwich Castle Museum. In fact I got quite used to doing these huge amounts of things.

Kevin: so you didn’t serve them up the brick of rice

Noreen: no, no I’d improved since then, so that what I was doing along with the all the other housework

Vernon: I like keep my interests wide, do you see I in fact became a guide at Norwich Cathedral, but only as a special guide for particular occasions. Then we developed a taste for travel as far as we could. Do you want me…

Noreen: just do Spain

Vernon: We had two trips to Spain, one to the South Coast to Malaga we stayed and traveled along the coast to Granada and to the Alhambra and places like that.

And we had another trip to Northern Spain and stayed just beyond Barcelona, so had a look at Barcelona

Noreen: 1975 it was. I don’t know if you put in a picture, we did have some.

Noreen: Judith and John had a villa and we stayed with them

Vernon: We did, didn’t we at a place called near Tarragona, can’t remember where we stayed, it was between..

Noreen: Calafell, that’s where we stayed, it was between Sitges and Tarragona

Vernon: Calafell, and that was a really tremendous….

Noreen: that was one of our French holidays

Vernon: adventure wasn’t it

Noreen: mmm

Vernon: We went to Normandy a few times, because we got to know Paris and simply loved it. An interesting thing about Paris is that on one occasion we were sat sipping coffee as one does in Paris, but we were in a square outside, what’s the cathedral?

Noreen: Barcelona

Vernon: no in Paris

Noreen: oh, in Paris, Notre Dame

Vernon: no

Noreen: no not that one Sacre Coeur

Vernon: there’s a big square there, full or artists, oh what’s it called, can’t remember, any way we were sat there

Noreen: Montmartre

Vernon: Montmartre, sat there sipping coffee do you see, and then some years later, Jonathan’s sister said “I’ve got a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of you in it” and fair enough, it was a, they gave it to us actually, it was a jigsaw puzzle, a picture of Montmartre, Sacre Coeur in the background and us, Noreen and me and Alix sat sipping coffee.

Kevin: and you didn’t know

Noreen: we haven’t got a picture of it unfortunately, you didn’t bring any pictures of France, it doesn’t matter

Vernon: haven’t got any

Noreen: right well, the next excitement. Well in 1979 we had a holiday in Australia, it was our first visit there and I simply loved it. We came to Sydney and it seemed to me so green. I’d imagined it as such a brown place, but I suppose it had had a lot of rain. It was August when we came, winter you see. So it was green and I thought Sydney is absolutely beautiful. We traveled quite a bit on that first holiday. We went up to Rockhampton where I did see the lovely... how I imagined Australia would be, with the dry and the purple mountains in the distance. We went down to Victoria and we went to a place just up the coast called Nelson Bay, you know it, that was the first of many trips there, because when we came to live in Australia we were always going off on little trips to Nelson Bay, weren’t we. We used to take Alix and her family, always when the children were small and it was one of our favourite places.

Vernon: this was six weeks, trip to Aussie to come and see Judy, you see we were devastated because she was half a world away, so we came out to see her and that was nice.

Noreen: It was a lovely holiday. Well Judith was on her own now, with her two little girls, John had left her. Vee was retiring soon from the office so we decided to emigrate to be with her, Angie and Kad decided that they’d emigrate too and in fact they arrived here a few months before us, because it took us longer to sell our house. Kad soon got a job and they moved up to Gladstone in Queensland, with Chris and Katy. The week before we left for Australia, this was when we were back home again, we went to Brighton where Alix had been nursing at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and to see her married to John Sowden who we’d known for a long time and he was a Maths teacher. Well it was very sad to say goodbye to Alix, but before too long they’d would join us in Sydney because in 1986 they had a little boy called Timothy and I went over to be with Alix at that time and later that year they decided now they’d got a child they thought Australia would be a better place to bring him up, so they came and in fact they settled in Bondi, which was, you’ll learn in a minute that we lived in Waverley, and Bondi is next to it so we were quite handy. In June 1982 we had a pleasant journey via Vancouver and we arrived in Sydney. We stayed with Judith in Randwick and then we moved to Waverley.
Can you do about 81 Victoria Road?

Vernon: Yes we needed to, Judy needed to move and we found a house which suited us rather well, it was a very nice house, a duplex in Waverley which we liked very much. Judith was at Randwick Tech at the time and I got my arm twisted to do a course on Adult Literacy at Randwick and then was given some students to deal with. One of them was a chap of forty something who couldn’t read or write. He was a parcel sorter, would you believe for the railway and I discovered very quickly that would never be able to read or write. He was very keen even though he stood no chance of learning, he’d got that congenital kind of problem and then I had various students including a chap of forty who explained to me how he got right through school without being able to read or write. Sat in the back row, pretended he’d done things that he hadn’t and succeeded in completing school without being able to read or write. Then he got a girl into trouble and thought he ought to be able to read or write a little bit and set up his own business of clearing rubbish and really needed little bit of help on that. Anyway he came to me and he came every week for two years and we covered all sorts of ground. We talked about Shakespeare, why was Shakespeare an important chap, what did alliteration mean, even the ABC came and did a programme on us, that was rather fun.

Noreen: while Vee was doing all this I had more time on my hands than I’d ever had and I’d always wanted to paint because my grandfather was an artist, so I went to the Waverley Art School and I did water colours and I did a lot of painting for two or three years and I’ve got a lot of paintings that I’ve done. I’ve even sold one at an exhibition, that was a thrill.

The other thing that I was interested in was, I joined the Richard theThird Society always believing that Richard the Third was a nicer man than he’s made out to be, because Shakespeare just got his work from Hollinger’s Chronicle which is written from the point of view of Henry Tudor and it was just stupid the things they said. Shakespeare says that in this battle he killed this prince you see, in actual fact he was aged two at the time of the battle, it was rubbish really, but it made a good play, didn’t it. But anyway the Richard the Third Society, which is still going, was always keen to show that Richard was a good man, I mean he wasn’t perfect but for his age he was quite a nice man, so I think he was anyway. That was the badge of our society.
Now what are we up to, Waverley, oh yes we move to Strathfield don’t we?

Vernon: well yes, we needn’t go into this in any detail but we had some bother with a psychopath and we had to move quickly and so we sold the house in Waverley and we moved to Strathfield in a rented house, a very nice rented house and we were there for six months and then the owner said they wanted to come back to it, the estate agent was a bit embarrassed about this having let this house to us, so they found us another one which was even nicer with a large swimming pool which was a bit of a burden maintaining it, still I learnt how to manage a swimming pool, shall we say. So we were in Strathfield for a bit.

Noreen: In December 1988 Judith marries Jonathan Casson, a lawyer and they’ve lived happily ever afterwards, they live in Balmain at 4 Birchgrove Road and we live in the studio at the end of their court yard. To complete their happiness Miles Jonathan was born in April 1993 and in 2003 another inmate, our beautiful Beagle dog Toby was a birthday present for Miles when he was ten.

Meanwhile Alix and John had left Bondi and gone to live in Westleigh but they had another five children since getting into Australia, so as well as Tim, there’s Tom, Emily, Edward, William and Susie. Susie is the youngest and she’s six, so we had great fun all the time seeing what all our grandchildren are up to. It was in interesting time wasn’t it?

Vernon: during the past stay here in Australia we’ve traveled as much as we could and seen as much we could in Australia. One of the things we did was to fly up to Broome some years ago and then did a trip from Broome, there’s a highway down the West Coast and I noticed that it went via Exmouth Gulf and it was an excuse to

Noreen: it was fifty years since, wasn’t it?

Vernon: fifty years since the end of the war. So it was an excuse to have a look at Broome which we’d always wanted to see and which we fell in love with and then travel down through rather hot areas which was interesting along the edge of The Great Sandy Desert, Marble Bar, places like that, the iron works, Pilbara that area and right down to Perth, we stopped over at Exmouth so I was able to have a look at the place, its now got roads which of course it didn’t have in our day, but it hasn’t changed really, do you know? But I think it is going to change a lot its going to become a tourist area especially for game fishing.

Noreen: Ningaloo Reef.

Vernon: That’s what will happen to Exmouth Gulf in the future. It will no longer be an empty undiscovered place as it was when I first knew it. It is a shame.

Another interesting trip we did, we went to Narrabri and then to Wee Waa, the purpose of this trip I’d never seen cotton growing and it was an excuse to go and look at cotton being grown and I found it most intriguing. I brought home a cotton plant full of cotton for Judith which she was interested in and that was a nice trip.
Another interesting trip we did we went to Broken Hill on the Indian Pacific and then we did a trip up to the Corner country (Cameron’s Corner) right up to the Corner, there were only two of us booked on this trip but we still went, that was quite fascinating to us, the corner itself has been developed now as a tourist bit.

Kevin: quite a contrast to your life in England

Noreen: oh yes

Vernon: a little look at the outback, desert country was quite intriguing

Noreen: it was lovely we saw the emus galloping along beside the road, oh it was wonderful

Vernon: We went to Fiji, we had a stay in Tahiti which we loved, two stays there actually, because we went home on a trip on one occasion with Air New Zealand which go to Auckland, Tahiti and we stopped off for a week and then onto L A.

The only thing is the airplane set off from Auckland to pick us up after a week and a bird flew into the engine and so we had an extra day in Tahiti, and then missed our connection in L A and then missed our connection in L A so we had an extra day in L A and then caught American Airlines direct to London.
We’ve been to Darwin and did the tour around Kakadu and Katherine Gorge, that bit, and we went up there a second time recently. Do you want to talk about that trip to Broome.

Noreen: Yes the Diamond wedding.

Vernon: This was our Diamond wedding, sixty years married. We thought what to do and went up to Darwin again and then did the trip that goes through the Kimberleys.

Noreen: Always wanted to see the Kimberleys.

Vernon: We had a day in the Bungle Bungles, we flew down and had a flight over them and then spent the day in the Bungle Bungles.

Kevin: I thought you were going to say that because it was you Diamond wedding, you went to the Argyle Diamond Mine.

Noreen: We did.

Vernon: Just, just listen, so the tour continued down to the Argyle Diamond mine. We did the tour round that, but we didn’t like the look of their diamonds and so the tour continued and ended up in Broome, couple of days stay there. It was in Broome that we had another look at Argyle diamonds and in fact bought a champagne diamond. We couldn’t afford the pink ones.

Kevin: Oh, beautiful.

Vernon: We have in fact got Argyle diamonds, so that was that.
Just mention another quick trip that we had. It was a cold canvas thing that came through the letter box of a trip to Canada and Alaska and we thought, oh it’s too expensive, put it aside. I had a second look at it and thought well, this is a bargain. I know it’s expensive but it’s a bargain.

Noreen: We’d always wanted to do.

Vernon: The trip in fact was a three week trip, Sydney, San Francisco, so we had a look at, went on the trams there, had a look at the bridge, what do you call it, the Golden Gate and then had a look at the next town up.

Noreen: Seattle

Vernon: Seattle, we had a wonderful hotel room on the thirty ninth floor of the hotel. Really quite superb, I suppose they were putting us where they could, but we were lucky there and had a little bit of a look at Seattle and then went up on the trip that goes to Jasper, Lake Louise, which is quite gorgeous and Banff, I wanted to look at Banff, having seen the real thing, the Canadian Banff was named after the engineer who was in charge of laying the train line, who came from Banff in Scotland and so that was Banff.

Noreen: Lake Louise was wonderful.

Vernon: Do you know Lake Louise, so beautiful, one of the place to go. Well the trip was through the Rockies, that area and to Vancouver which we’d stayed in previously and then the cruise up to Alaska. Well included in this trip was a, went to the Athabascan River and we took a little bit of a trip on the river, which they described as white water rafting.

Noreen: We’ve got a picture, but it is rather too big.

Vernon: But it was all rather fun, it was not a very advanced white water, but it was fun, it was grade three.

Noreen: It was three as opposed to up to six.

Vernon: And we simply loved it, it was an adventure which we enjoyed and the cruise…..

Noreen: What about the glacier, the Athabascan Glacier

Vernon: the Athabascan Glacia, it’s one of the big ones which they take everybody to and you go in a, what do they call it?

Noreen: A caterpillar type thing

Vernon: A caterpillar, a really big one up onto the glacier and there you are invited to sample the water that comes from underneath the glacier, two hundred years old or something or rather. Anyway we had a glass of this water and I was sipping away and the chap next to me he said “ah, I’ve got something that will tidy that up a bit” and he produced a bottle of Glen Fiddich malt whisky and tipped some in, so we sampled the glacier water with a little bit of Glen Fiddich. That was fun and we enjoyed that.

Kevin: of course you’re a connoisseur of malt whisky

Vernon: well absolutely yes, I said yes Glen Fiddich is very acceptable. Then we had the cruise up to…

Noreen: that’s the cruise, on the cruise

Kevin: oh beautiful

Vernon: up to Alaska and stopping at all the usual places, Ketchikan,

Noreen: Juneau and of course it was our Emerald anniversary and so Vee bought me an emerald

Vernon: a Columbian emerald in Ketchikan, you haven’t got it on

Noreen: no I’ve only got my opal engagement ring on.

Vernon: I see, yes and from when we left the ship, it was one of these new American cruise ships, P & O Dawn Princess and they’re seventy seven thousand tones, big ships. Wonderful on the ship, brand new ship, absolutely wonderful and we enjoyed that, it was a great experience. Then we flew up to the centre of Alaska, called Fairbanks and then did the train journey down to Anchorage on those double decker trains with the glass top.

Kevin: panoramic views

Vernon: yes, wonderful experience going down there and we loved Anchorage, then flew down to L A and back again. Lovely holiday.

Noreen: I’ll just do a bit about our life in Balmain, apart from those wonderful holidays. We’ve had a very enjoyable life in Balmain, we’ve loved living in Balmain, we’re always busy, Vee does a lot of church work and there’s always something to do for the grandchildren. We’ve got a photo of Vee doing something for the grandchildren.

Vernon: I’m the rector’s warden for the Anglican church down the road, so I spend a certain amount of time involved with that and I’m involved with local history studies too, which I find interesting.

Noreen: that was one of the projects that involved the grandchildren. Vee helped Miles make a miniature boat, another time we had to do a toga for Tim who had wanted to have a Roman toga that took a bit of researching.

Vernon: I knew what a toga was, but I didn’t know how to make one, I happened to have a textbook on Latin studies and there was a drawing of one in it, complete with measurements, so I was able to get two sheets and get them sewn together, twenty one feet long it is.

Kevin: Wow

Vernon: So I was able to cut it to its correct shape, so we made this toga, the difficult bit is how to wear it. The Romans needed a slave to help to put it on because it takes two people to put this thing on correctly, anyway we made an authentic toga.

Noreen: We have a court yard between Judith’s house and ours and that’s where we have many parties and celebrations and at Christmas everybody comes who can, except Chris who is now a captain in the Australian Army and so we all have

Christmas dinner in the evening of Christmas Day this last year there was twenty three of us, even Chris was here, because he was able to come down from Townsville and that’s a photo, just one little excitement and there’s the children at their table. At Halloween, we always celebrated Halloween, we had bobbing apples and all sorts of things. We celebrated our Golden Wedding in 1993 Judith did a beautiful golden feast for us.

Well in the year it was my eightieth birthday and we had a grand celebration, with everybody there. Judy provided a huge cake with eighty candles on, all fluttering in the wind. It was a bit frightening really. Then in 2001 Julia now a doctor and Lucy a public servant were both married Julia to John Dowling and Lucy to Robert Grieve, finally in 2003 we celebrated our Diamond wedding. Sixty happy years, family gave us a wonderful time, we had dinner out in Glebe with

our three daughter and their husbands, then at the weekend we had a barbeque lunch at Lucy and Robert’s house in Old Toongabbie, all the family were there except for Chris who was in Townsville with the army and the grandchildren presented us with a present which was a weekend away, we could choose where, so we had a weekend in the Blue Mountains at the Carrington. That was nice wasn’t it? That was such a surprise and for our own treat to ourselves, the week before our Diamond wedding, we went of course to one of our favourite places, far North Queensland and we had a few days at Silky Oaks which is a luxury place in the rain forest and then a few days at Palm Cove near Cairns, so that was our Diamond wedding.

Over the years we’ve enjoyed our children’s achievements and our grandchildren’s achievements and looking forward now to the younger ones, what they’re going to do, it’s all so exciting.

Well it’s now 2005, Alix’s children are all growing up Tim has just gained a place at Sydney University to study media and communications, Miles has just started high school at St Andrews, Julia has just presented us with our first great grandchild, Charlotte Isabelle who is adorable and Lucy is expecting in July, so our family grows and we hope to spend many more happy years with them.